The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the largest democratic movement in Swaziland, recently elected a new leadership at its General Congress. Mlungisi Makhanya was elected new President.
In his opening address, outgoing President Mario Masuku highlighted the need for the rebuilding of PUDEMO and condemned the corruption of Swazi King Mswati’s absolute rule at PUDEMO’s 9th General Congress, held in Witbank, South Africa.
“No amount of ritual pseudo electoral processes can redeem such an inherently flawed system”, Masuku said in a press release from PUDEMO.
According to the press release, PUDEMO will launch campaigns against land evictions, the Swazi government’s corruption, gender based violence and unemployment.
Sacrifice and resilience
Mario Masuku was PUDEMO President for many years. He has been arrested on many occasions and charged, though never convicted, with terrorism and sedition, the latter for shouting “Viva PUDEMO” at a May Day rally. He has spent several years in prison awaiting trial.
He was, however, a well-respected figure outside Swaziland, meeting with heads of state in the region and receiving a democracy award in the Danish Parliament from former Danish Speaker of the House, Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the United Nations General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft.
“This congress was an historic moment indeed, also for Comrade Mario Masuku, who is now ready for different roles as the epitome of sacrifice and resilience in the struggle for freedom in Swaziland,” said new Secretary General Wandile Dludlu.
Masuku is currently working at a home for orphans and vulnerable children here at Mbabane on a daily voluntary basis and plans to continue his work to promote human rights in Swaziland.
Former Secretary General Mlungisi Makhanya was elected President of PUDEMO, and Zodwa Mkhonta Deputy President.
Mlungisi Makhanya and Mphandlana Shongwe sing The Internationale at the Red Green Alliance annual congress 2016. Photo by Peter Kenworthy
Former youth leader Wandile Dludlu was elected new Secretary General and Jabulani Malinga National Organising Secretary.
Stalwart activist Mphandlana Shongwe remained on the National Executive Committee.
Swaziland is a small semi-feudal absolute monarchy with a population of 1.3 million. More than two thirds of the population live in poverty, many on food aid.
Amnesty International has called the Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act, which is used to charge many PUDEMO members for trivial offenses, “inherently oppressive” and Freedom House ranks Swaziland as one of the repressive countries in the world in regard to political rights.
* Peter Kenworthy is a freelance journalist.